Thousands Flock to Superdome as Last Resort Shelter

August 28, 2005 -- Posted at 9:21 PM CDT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans' most frail residents got priority for placement in the makeshift Superdome shelter, by far the most solid of the Big Easy's 10 refuges of last resort.

An estimated 100,000 city residents don't have the means, or strength to join a mandatory evacuation.

The sickest among them didn't flee the wrath of Hurricane Katrina tonight as much as they hobbled to safety on crutches, canes and on stretchers. The rest lined up for blocks in the muggy heat, clutching meager belongings and crying children as National Guardsman searched them for guns, knives and drugs.

The 77,000-seat stadium provides few comforts but at least has bathrooms for the refugees and food donated by several charities.

The dome, with its bare floor and stadium seats, is likely to end up their home for the next few days as the hurricane hits and the region deals with its aftermath.

New Orleans Flees, Braces, Prays as Monstrous Hurricane Katrina Approaches

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - With a Category Five hurricane bearing down on New Orleans, which is below-sea-level, Mayor Ray Nagin made what pleas he could to his fellow citizens to flee and then left it in the hands of a higher power.

Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation for the city's 485,000 residents and opened the Superdome as a shelter of last resort. Nagin bluntly warned those who are staying that they would be at the mercy of Katrina's high winds, 28-foot storm surge and 15 inches of rain.

Katrina intensified into a Category Five giant over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 175 mph before weakening slightly on a path to hit New Orleans around sunrise tomorrow. That would make it the city's first direct hit in 40 years and the most powerful storm ever to slam the city.

At 4:00 p.m., Katrina's eye was about 150 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm is moving toward the west-northwest at nearly 13 mph and is expected to turn toward the north-northwest. A hurricane warning is in effect for the north-central Gulf Coast from Morgan City to the Alabama-Florida line.

Storm Surge Could Reach 28 Feet

New Orleans (AP) - Rain began falling on southeastern Louisiana by midday Sunday.  It's the first hinds of a storm with a potential surge of 18 to 28 feet, topped with even higher waves, tornadoes and as much as 15 inches of rain.

Mayor Ray Nagin says the storm surge will most likely topple the levees.  Conceding that as many as 100,000 inner-city residents didn't have the  means to leave and an untold number of tourists were stranded by the closing of the airport, the city arranged buses to take people to ten last-resort shelters, including the Superdome.

Nagin also dispatched police and firefighters to rouse people out with sirens and bullhorns, and even gave them the authority to commandeer vehicles to aid in the evacuation.

Evacuations Cause Major Traffic Delays

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Two major routes east-west routes along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are clogged with evacuees and state emergency officials are urging motorists to take other routes.

Lea Stokes of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency says problems were occurring on Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90. She says I-10 had closed this afternoon for additional eastbound traffic due to the congestion.

Mississippi Department of Transportation officials say the average speed for motorists on these two highways is less than 20 mph. MEMA says besides U.S. Highway 49, which runs from Gulfport to Jackson and points north, other available routes were Mississippi highways 15, 57, 63 and 67.

Katrina Reminds Many of Deadly Camille

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - As the sky darkened and the Gulf of Mexico began to churn -- a whipping wind blew sheets of white sand across beach-front roads. It reminded many residents of the destruction left by Hurricane Camille so many years ago.

Forecasters say Hurricane Katrina could plow into the coast with Category Five winds as early as tomorrow. It would be the strongest storm to batter the Mississippi Coast since Camille raked across the state killing 131 people in Mississippi alone, and leaving another 41 missing in August 1969. Another 216 were killed as Camille moved through Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia.

Camille was the most powerful and devastating hurricane to hit Mississippi and was one of only three Category Five hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900.

French Quarter Dead as Katrina Approaches

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Tip Andrews knew it was time to leave when he saw the green shutters on the mustard-colored Cafe Lafitte, one of the French Quarter's most legendary bars.

The Big Easy neighborhood famous for never sleeping looks like a bar after last call Sunday as Hurricane Katrina barrels toward the Louisiana coast with winds up to 175 mph and a potential 28-foot storm surge.

The sickly sweet "hurricane" punch drinks that normally flow right up until landfall were nowhere to be seen as city workers did a last sweep of spent plastic cups and party debris.